Here are the 13 Senate Democrats Who Just Voted for Never-Ending War.

Jonathan Cohn
4 min readSep 13, 2017


Sixteen years ago — to the day — from tomorrow, the US Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Afghanistan. There was one dissenting vote — Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), who represents Berkeley and Oakland.

In an op-ed in the San Francisco Gate shortly thereafter, Lee explained why she could not vote for such a “blank check.”

Last week, filled with grief and sorrow for those killed and injured and with anger at those who had done this, I confronted the solemn responsibility of voting to authorize the nation to go to war. Some believe this resolution was only symbolic, designed to show national resolve. But I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war.

It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events — anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration. I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk.

Lee’s words were prescient. Sixteen years later, the US is still waging war with the same AUMF, and in even more countries. The 2002 AUMF for Iraq remains on the books as well. Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all been able to use them to continue ill-defined wars, with high costs in lives and money, without any accountability or debate.

In the sixteen years since, Lee has tried numerous times to change this and to force Congress to debate the wars being carried out in the country’s name. Earlier this year, she was able to get a repeal of the 2001 AUMF in the Defense Appropriations bill — until Paul Ryan stripped it out.

Lee has offered amendments to repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs year after year during the Defense Appropriations and National Defense Authorization amendment processes, but they consistently go down.

The Senate has shied away from voting on the issue at all. But Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to the FY 2018 NDAA to sunset the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and force Congress to debate what, if anything, should replace them.

Paul spoke compellingly on the floor about the need for his amendment:

I rise today to oppose unauthorized, undeclared, and unconstitutional war.

What we have today is basically unlimited war — war anywhere, anytime, any place on the globe.

This vote will be to sunset, in 6 months, the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force.

No one with an ounce of intellectual honesty believes these authorizations allow current wars we fight in 7 countries.

Some of the more brazen advocates of war maintain the President can even fight war in perpetuity without any Congressional authority.

These advocates of perpetual war argue that the Article II powers of the President give unlimited war-making powers to the President.

Madison disagrees.

Madison wrote that the executive is the branch of government “most prone” to war; therefore, the Constitution, “with studied care,” vested the power to declare war with the legislature.

Former President Obama, as a candidate, agreed that a President could not use military force without Congress’ permission unless we were under imminent attack.

Once in the White House, however, President Obama bombed 7 different countries without Congressional authority.

Candidate Trump repeatedly argued that the Afghan War was a disaster and should end.

Once in the White House, however, President Trump is escalating the war in Afghanistan just as President Obama did.

Today, we will debate this issue of war and whether Congress is constitutionally bound to declare war.

We will debate whether one generation can bind another generation to perpetual war.

We will debate whether the war in Afghanistan is winnable.

We will debate whether the war in Yemen is in our vital national interest.

We will debate whether our support for Saudi Arabia is exacerbating starvation and the plague of cholera in Yemen.

For five years, I have fought to get this vote. Today, members of the Senate will stand and be counted.

Will senators stand for the rule of law? Will senators stand for Congressional authority to declare war?

As you can probably expect, the majority of his colleagues (especially those of his own party) were not swayed. The Senate voted to table (i.e., dispense with) his amendment 61–36.

33 Democrats and 2 Republicans (Mike Lee of Utah and Dean Heller of Nevada) sided with Paul, with 48 Republicans and 13 Democrats voting for limitless war instead.

Here are those 13 Democrats:

Tom Carper (D-DE)

Bob Casey (D-PA)

Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Jack Reed (D-RI)

Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Mark Warner (D-VA)

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.